By Elaine Sanchez, Brooke Army Medical Center Public AffairsJune 7, 2018
JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas -- A Warrior Transition Battalion Soldier was presented the Purple Heart for his combat wounds during a packed ceremony June 1 at the Warrior and Family Support Center.
Army Sgt. 1st Class James Burch, an explosive ordnance disposal technician with the 756th EOD, was injured May 5 when his vehicle was struck by enemy munitions near the Syria/Iraq border.
Brooke Army Medical Center Commanding General Brig. Gen. George N. Appenzeller presented the Purple Heart to Burch. "I stand in awe," he said. "This is one of those things you don't want to ever do, but when you do it, it brings everything home."
The general praised the Soldier for his devotion to the military and to his Family. "I want you to know the man who wants to be with his buddies, who wants to be with his Family, who wants to be with his Army … incredible," he said. "You have our deepest gratitude for what you do every day."
Burch said his vehicle came under attack when he was at an over watch position. "I had just gotten into the driver's seat when [enemy] munitions struck the front of the vehicle and detonated underneath my legs," he recalled.
The other passengers were left unharmed, but Burch suffered burns to his hands, face and legs, and shrapnel wounds to his lower body and abdomen.
When his parents and his wife, Dixie, were informed of his injuries later that day, they immediately packed up and headed to San Antonio. "My parents drove from Michigan to Arkansas to pick up my wife and, they were here two days after I was injured waiting for me to arrive."
A few weeks later, the father of three reunited with his children here on Memorial Day. "They were unfazed by my injuries," he said of his 6, 8 and 10 year old. "They were troopers."
Next up for Burch is rehabilitation, but his unwavering focus is on returning to duty. "I love what I do; I love EOD," he said. "The camaraderie is amazing."
In brief remarks after the medal ceremony, Burch expressed his heartfelt gratitude to his family, friends and battle buddies. "To everyone who showed up to support me, you have taken care of me and it has been phenomenal.
"This is an amazing hospital; I can't say enough about the staff here," he added. "I appreciate everything everyone has done."
Burch received a standing ovation in honor of his service and sacrifice.
The Purple Heart is the oldest U.S. military decoration awarded to members of the armed forces who are wounded by an instrument of war in the hands of the enemy.